Today is Bobby Munoz’ birthday.
Why is that relevant to the “My Baseball Page Blog”? Because he was a former Yankee?
Nope. He was a Yankee who’s better remembered for his size than his pitching. He was (still is presumably) 6’7” and was listed at 237 pounds. This begs the question, what would his weight be if he put his second leg on the scale? The man was huge.
But with 74 base runners allowed in 45 innings, and a strikeout to walk ratio of pretty much 1 to 1, his stint with the Yankees was short and unmemorable.
No, it isn’t the former Yankee I celebrate today. It is the pitcher who surrendered one of the most gratifying home runs I’ve ever seen. It was just short of 20 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. Do you remember?
On May 19th, 1998 the Yankees hosted the Orioles at Yankee Stadium II. The birds, coming off a great ’97 season that saw them win 98 games, were off to a disappointing start in ’98: By May 19th, they were 20-24 and 15 games behind the Yankees, who had just run off a streak of 28 wins in 33 games. 20-24 may not be the end of the season in most cases, but the Yankees looked like Secretariat running with a 40 pound jockey.
15 games back. On May 19th.
As you can imagine, people wearing orange and black were a little cranky back then.
But the birds, behind the bats of Harold Baines and Roberto Alomar took a 5-1 lead over David Cone and the Yankees on this night. RBI hits from Paul O’Neill and Tim Raines later cut the lead to 5-3.
Then the fun began in the bottom of the 8th…
Two walks and a single cut the lead to 5-4, at which point Armando Benitez was brought in to replace Norm Charlton to face Bernie Williams (because you know, Bernie batting lefty was his weaker side…)
Bernie promptly destroyed a hanging 2-1 slider from Benitez that probably would still be travelling if it didn’t hit something or someone in the stands to stop it.
7-5 Yankees. With Rivera that was the equivalent of 15-5 Yankees. Game. Set. Match.
But Armando, as you may recall, went all petulant teenager and hit the next batter, Tino Martinez, with a fastball between the shoulder blades.
I’ll never forget the sound it made. I’ve seen and heard baseballs hitting people hundreds of times in person and on TV and I never heard it make that noise. I really thought Tino was messed up.
Now, personal rooting interests aside, I’ve made my feelings about throwing at players known. (Dickie Thon, cautionary tale) Under any circumstances, it’s uncalled for – but when you do it because you can’t get a slider down and Bernie calls you on it – that’s sociopathic behavior.
So the benches emptied, and when Grahame Lloyd and Jeff Nelson were done embarrassing themselves with their lack of fighting skills and when Joe Girardi was done looking angrier than I’ve ever seen him look, and when Daryl was done doing whatever he wanted to with anyone in an Orioles uniform, in came Bobby Munoz about 45 minutes later to replace the ejected Benitez. (For the record, it may not have been 45 minutes, but it did seem like a long time for things to straighten themselves out.)
Side note: David Cone, who had been removed from the game at that point later said he would never forget two things about the incident – the sound of the ball hitting Tino, and thanking God Daryl was on his team.
Once order was restored and baseball resumed, Bobby Munoz’ threw a first pitch fastball to Tim Raines – who proceeded to put it in the right center field bleachers.
Best, oh yeah take that home run ever. Don’t let the door hit you on the way to 4th place, Orioles. Gratification. Bye sore losers who can’t do their job and take it out on others who can.
Take home reminders, kids: 1) This is baseball. Worry about winning the game, not winning macho contests. 2) Don’t throw at people intentionally.
Happy birthday Bobby Munoz, you made me and a lot of Yankee fans happy that night. Just recalling it put a smile on my face.